TAMPA — After 80 minutes of regulation and 20 of overtime, the match was begging for someone — anyone — to make a play.
And shortly into penalty kicks, someone did.
Junior goalkeeper Emily Ball blocked two shots and even converted on a kick to lift Freedom to a 4-3 advantage over Gaither in penalty kicks in the Class 5A, District 9 championship.
The victory marks the second straight district title for Freedom (11-1-3), which begins region play Thursday at home against Naples Gulf Coast. Gaither (10-5-2) goes on the road at Venice.
After neither team could take advantage of its opportunities in regulation and overtime, the penalty kick round started out just as evenly matched. But after each team made two, Ball came up big, blocking midfielder Lauren Moore's shot.
And after four Freedom players converted their shots past freshman keeper Amanda High, Ball made one more huge play. She leaped to her right to block defender Kaycee McGuire's shot and set off Freedom's victory celebration.
"I had a feeling and went with my gut," Ball said of blocking two shots in the PK round. "I knew a little about their tendencies."
Freedom initially moved the ball better but Gaither had the first few shots of the game.
Gaither's best shot at a score in the opening half came with 2:45 on the clock and a free kick by Moore. But Ball blocked the blast — though the ball scooted back out to a throng of players before being kicked away by a Freedom player.
Chances were even rarer in the second half as both teams missed out on their few offensive chances.